Sunday, October 05, 2008

Horse Feathers - House With No Home (album review)

(Kill Rock Stars)
6 October 2008

House With No Home is Horse Feather's debut release on Kill Rock Stars and the follow up to their critically acclaimed "Words Are Dead".

Horse Feathers is lead by Justin Ringle and named after a phrase his Grandfather used. Horse Feathers share the same sparse sound and hushed, whispered vocals as Iron & Wine but aren't a derivative spin-off. They differ through the strong strings from multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick and his sister Heather on cello and backing vocals.

The first album's strength was found in its minimalism - the songs were stripped down to nothing but the bare minimum, the space between the notes was as important as the notes themselves. Justin's vocal style is not so much about lyrics as the sounds the words make. If you liked Words Are Dead, you'll like House With No Home.

Initially I felt disappointed that "House..." appeared to start right where "Words.." left off. The same techniques, similar songs and melodies. Yet after a few listens, when you become more acquainted with it, House... reveals a personality all of its own. This happens around the fourth track - "Albina"; it feels arresting and heightened from the beginning developing into a powerful crescendo. The songs are more complex, featuring more strings and harmony vocals, yet retaining what made Words.. a great album. "Helen" is another highlight, featuring perfect orchestration and gorgeous backing vocals and the line:

Helen if you called my name you know I'd go
In much the same way the sun steals the snow

With House With No Home Horse Feathers show that they are still producing some of the best Americana out there.

Rating; 4/5
For Fans Of: Iron & Wine, Damien Jurado, Peter and the Wolf

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